African Creation Stories

July 08, 2023 - August 05, 2023

492 Fehrsen Street, Brooklyn, Pretoria, South Africa

Group Exhibition on the 1st floor.

Zakes Mda :The Crab in Basotho Folklore

In African folklore crabs are considered symbols of strength, courage, and determination. In their indigenous spirituality the Basotho people trace their origins from the Land of the Black Sun, Ntshwana-Tsatsi, among the great blue lakes where reeds abound. That is where the first Mosotho (singular of Basotho) was created. The early people trekked from the Land of the Reeds and the Black Sun led by a broken moon that looked like the pincers of the crab. The crab therefore is a powerful symbol of the Moon and a guardian of the night. It also symbolizes adaptability and resourcefulness. It is a guardian spirit that watches people over their travels, as it watched the early Basotho migrate from Ntshwana-Tsatsi, the land of their creation, to today’s Lesotho. Most importantly it is a symbol of transformation and of new beginnings. My painting therefore portrays a creation story in an evolutionary sense. After centuries of travel Basotho finally settled on the mountains of what became Lesotho, which they shared with the Barwa people who lived in the caves and recorded their lives on the walls of those caves. The Barwa were people of the trance. They danced until they fell into a deep trance that took them to other dimensions, to the land of the dead and of the unborn. Some of these dances are portrayed on the walls of the caves. As are the great hunts and ancestral rituals. Since many of the Barwa people intermarried with Basotho, the latter share the former’s spiritual ancestry. In my painting their trance dances have been re-born or have evolved into the present day focho dance that is performed to a genre of music called famo that is always backed by the accordion. 


John Moore has always been fascinated by the fauna and flora of Southern Africa. During his childhood, the love of his surroundings was deeply ingrained as he traveled with his family through Southern Africa. His artistic career has highlighted the beauty and diversity of Southern African wildlife.

He is deeply spiritual and enjoys walking and meditating in natural environments. Since childhood, John believes that he holds a sacred connection with the fauna and flora of Africa. He believes he is a mediator, a Shaman who interacts and communicates with animals, telling and representing their stories to the world of man. He is strongly connected with the San. Recent genetic studies indicate that the San are the oldest group of living man. This resulted in the confirmation of proof that man did indeed come “Out of Africa”. John has studied the concepts and mythology of the San. He has interviewed them in his travels and documented much of their stories and tales. John has a library of significant imagery and facts about San society, their iconography as well as their most important dance the trance-dance. John has participated in and witnessed the trance-dance experience and has gained understanding of what happens with the body and brain and its response to such a sacred rite.

John is compiling information regarding the states of trance and the images thereof. Scientists have proven these are images and icons, which the San have been painting for millennia on their cave walls related to trance experiences. John studies this iconography and concludes that this 'sacred text/writing' connects us together in a time/space, which brings us close to the source.

The San believed in two time-frames in their history. The ”First Paradise”, was the beginning when animals and man were one, animals were animals with human characteristics. In this space they could all speak and communicate as one, using one language. The second phase was when animals separated from the San to live in the time frame we witness today where humans lost the ability to communicate with creatures “In the sacred tongue”.

He uses this information to compile artwork. Firstly to represent the animals and the trance-dance state, which the San believed was a space where they could interact with and be in the environment of “The First Paradise”. He is collating information in the knowledge that there is a sacred language, a “god language” which if we choose we can speak. This language manifests in the trance dance state, where time stops and we interact with a spirit world where animals and humans interact like the “first time” and experience source.

It is John’s intention to relate this sacred space back to Source and the god particle, referred to as the “time in space just before the Big Bang”. A time when god existed as the universe was created.

John is using sound to assist this process of creating sacred space. He is looking at scientific research to plot, decipher and decode the explosions from the “God particle experiments”, mapping and recording their trajectory on computers. Scientists then compose music from our very beginnings. He is using this music as reference for work.

The printmaking medium is used as a source for creating John's images for several reasons. Printmaking is a way of creating multiple images. He also likes the “traditional printmaking techniques” namely lithography, etching, silkscreen and woodcuts as they are processes that allows him and viewers to get involved and immerse themselves into the medium and the images he creates. He also loves the printmaking medium because there is a process of repetition and rhythm. Ritual is important to the San, a Shaman and John.

In San society, when a trance-dance is performed, all members come together as a community. Repeated chanting and clapping creates (sonic) sounds, which allow the Shaman to enter the world of spirit and the trance. John uses the repeated processes of printmaking to charge his images with energy and intent and like shaman of old, intentionally empowers his image to do the same.

San mythology looked at three realms in their universe: the realm of the sky or 3-D reality, extending from the cave wall into the landscape, the realm below or behind the cave painting, which represented the spirit realm. The third reality is the cave surface itself. This was the sacred veil, the space where both the 3-D reality and the spirit realm came together. The paintings were revered in San society in the same way sacred texts are revered in other belief systems.

John creates his images with the same reverence. Each image holds the 3 realities: the realm of human, the animal/spiritual realm extending behind the image and the charged surface of the image, which John has created filled of sacred power and potential.


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